Let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him. (Oswalt Chambers)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chat Back for June 28

Answering questions from comments and email.

Peggy commented . . .
I concur that it looks like a BHC (Brown-headed Cowbird). Young grosbeaks have distinct barring on the wings and near the eye. Young cowbirds have heavy streaking on the breast and pale edgings on its feathers giving it a scaled look (from Birds of North America, 3rd ed.).

In Wednesday's post I wasn't sure if this young bird was a female Rose-breasted or a Cowbird. Peggy explains how to tell the difference and she's right on. This is a young Cowbird demanding to be fed.

Shortly after posting on Wednesday, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak dad showed up with his young daughter. The barring on the wings and over the eye can't be missed. Also, she was more polite, passive, and appreciative than the obnoxious Cowbird.

Jean asked . . .
I will be taking on a vest soon and would love some pointers on blocking, as I've never blocked before.

How to block or if blocking is even necessary depends on the fiber content of the yarn. I'm a lazy blocker, following these simple steps when blocking is necessary:
  • Wash the knitting the same way you plan on always washing the piece.
  • Spin it as dry as possible in the washing machine.
  • For small items, I sometimes skip the spinning, roll the knitting up in a towel, and twist the ends of the towel in opposite directions to extract as much wetness as possible.
  • Lay the knitting out flat to dry, shaping by hand for the desired measurements.
  • Some items are a bit of work. Don't be afraid to yank and pull.

A last word from me on the biasing yarn, Queensland Tahiti (49% cotton, 36% acrylic, 12% microfiber, 3% polyester) . . .
Look at this pattern Elann featured with the Tahiti yarn. Biasing doesn't show in the body because it's a crop top. And we don't need to wonder why there's a ruffle on one side of the neck and not the other, do we?

If I hadn't been blinded by the pretty colors, I would have noticed this before buying the yarn.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Starting a Manon Shawl for Carrie

When my youngest little sister saw the Coto Canapone yarn in the June Sample Skeins, she noticed that I finally had something nice to say about a Vegan friendly yarn. She took the opportunity to ask me to knit something for her.

After several emails back and forth, we decided to go with the Manon shawl featured for the Coto Canapone yarn in the June Elann News.

Carrie picked the Murano Blue color and I immediately placed an Elann order. Because what is more fun that looking for new yarn in the mailbox? And, I was/am excited to knit something for my sister that I know she wants to have.

When the yarn and pattern arrived last week, I immediately knit the swatch. Even as I knit, I knew the swatch was a waste of knitting time. It was impossible to measure with the gathering in the center. What does it matter if gauge is right on for a shawl or not? At least I have a piece to throw in the washer and dryer so I can advise her on laundering the shawl.

The garter stitch sections are knit on a #3 needle. For the wavy sections, the needle size goes up to a #10 and the stitch count is doubled.

The caston was 248 stitches. After a few rows of garter stitch with short row shaping so the shawl will curl around the neck and shoulders, the stitch count increased to 476. It takes a while to knit a row.

I love shawls where all the tedious long rows come first while the excitement and motivation of a new project is fresh. So far I'm very pleased with the yarn and the results and especially that sister Carrie wants to own something I knit.

Pattern: Manon Shawl by Ilga Lega Design.

Yarn: Elann Coto Canapone. Worsted weight. 52% cotton, 48% hemp.

Color: Murano Blue.

Needles: Options #3 for the purl sections, Options #10 for the gathered sections.

Size: Approximately 66" wide and 16" long at center back.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pattern, No Pattern, and CIC Socks Mailed

All the fun knitting is done. Now I need to sew the main pieces together, pickup the band stitches, and knit the band.

This may be the first knitted item in many moons where I've followed the pattern instructions to the stitch, including a good blocking before any seaming. With an unfamiliar type of yarn and a lace stitch pattern that bunches up before blocking, I thought it a wise thing to do.

Pattern: Luna Peacock Plumes Bolero free at Elann.

Yarn: Elann Collection Luna, 55% viscose, 45% cotton. DK weight.

Color: Burnished Clay.

Needles: Options #8

Gauge: 4.4 stitches/inch, 4.75 rows/inch in Peacock Plumes stitch pattern.

This yarn is almost harsh feeling. Maybe it would be nicer to call it rustic feeling. But I don't dislike it and stitch definition is great. I'm enjoying the process of picking out traditional Gansey type stitch patterns for the top part of the sweater.

The bottom is seed stitch with two inch slits up the sides framed in more seed stitch.

I haven't decided on the sleeve type yet. Some days I feel like making a gusset with drop sleeves, other days I feel like making set-in sleeves. Don't need to decide until I'm there.

Pattern: Making it up as I knit using various knit purl stitch patterns from several Gansey books.

Yarn: Elann Coto Canapone. Worsted weight. 52% cotton, 48% hemp.

Color: Summer Spice.

Needles: Options #4

Gauge: 5.5 stitches/inch, 8 rows/inch.

I keep a little pair of CIC socks on the needles in the kitchen and knit a few rows when there's a kitchen minute to spare.

At the end of a sock challenge I can never remember how many pairs I have. Yesterday when I went to pack the box up for mailing, I pulled out six pair and happily sent them off.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Learning About Feeders

One reason to keep the feeders full in the summer is the fun to be had watching the parents of new fledglings bring their young to the "free food - all you can eat".

This young female Rose-breasted Grosbeak was so obnoxiously demanding and aggressive that I suspect it may actually be a young Cowbird.

After looking at several bird identification sources, I give up. I can't tell for certain.

Whatever species, it was not going to feed itself when Mr. Rosy was around to do the honors.

This gawky adolescent Rose-breasted Grosbeak looks like he could use some good nutrition to grow into that beak.

And, this frumpy Cardinal chick is working on growing her adult feathers. Some good sunflower seeds should help.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Chat Back for June 21

Answering questions from comments and email.

Kellygirl asked . . .
What do you do with all of your lovely swatches? Do you unravel them and use them in your project? for seaming?

Swatches are so useful that I never consider them a waste of yarn.

Occasionally I need to unravel them to have enough yarn to finish a project.

If they're wool, I usually unravel them for CIC_Knit List knitting.

Sometimes I keep them for reference, especially if I love the yarn and know I'll be using it a future project.

Sometimes I ask myself why I would ever want to see this swatch again and toss it in the wastebasket.

Karen asked . . .
Did Michigan have a large number of bird deaths this spring?

Not that I've heard or read about. And my personal observation of the bird population at my house says no.

It's possible bluebird numbers are down. They winter over here and I think the winter was hard on them. The only pair to use a nest box so far this year were either young or not as healthy as I normally see. They only had four eggs and one egg never hatched. Normally there are five eggs and five fledglings in a nest box.

There seems to be a large increase in the number of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Goldfinches.

Most exciting, there are Pileated Woodpeckers nesting in the woods across the street. Mostly we hear them. There is nothing to rival the loudness of their call or their bass drum like pecking.

They stay in the tall treetops and don't come to the feeders, but occasionally they bless us with a sighting.

This picture was taken with my zoom lens from an open window. Mr. Pileated is about forty feet away and twenty feet up in the air.

Kathy in Iowa asked . . .
How many nesting boxes do you have on your property? Do you keep track of how many "families" are raised each year? Stats on most prolific years, etc?

Reading this question made me feel a little guilty, but I'm over it and ready to confess I do none of these things.

We have four nest boxes, two on the east side of the field, two on the west side of the field. The only log I keep are the pictures on my blog.

I do informally record egg laying dates so I know when to expect hatching. And I'm very careful to record hatching dates so I don't open the boxes when the chicks are strong enough to flap themselves out and onto the ground.

Thank you for all your comments and suggestions on my
Bad Biasing Yarn . . .

Queensland Tahiti (49% cotton, 36% acrylic, 12% microfiber, 3% polyester).

Yes, the swatch has biasing. I naively assumed it was from knitting a small swatch with the thick and thin yarn.

Although I admit I haven't tried a knit and purl pattern as suggested by several commenters, I don't think the nature of the yarn allows for it. I made my ribbing as shallow as possible because it looked so awful with the purl stitches.

Here's a close up so you can see the yarn better. The "thin" is about sport weight and the "thick" is about Lopi weight. Both have a weird crimp.

The yarn is in time out. More accurately, the yarn is on death row. I've officially labeled it "crap", and one day soon when I'm feeling ruthless it will end up in the trash.

Or maybe I will use it for wrapping gift packages. It should last the rest of my gift-giving life.

What did I learn? If the swatch biases, a larger piece is going to bias worse. Sounds simple enough. Why did I have to learn this the hard way?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mom's Birthday Socks Finished and Appreciated

Mom is one of my most appreciative knitting recipients.

Yesterday was her birthday and guess what she got - a pair of birthday socks.

She also got copies of a ship manifest from Ellis Island, the passenger records recorded on their ship, the Belgenland, when baby Mom and her mother came to this country from Switzerland to join my grandfather.

Anyone can go to the Ellis Island web site and search the 25 million immigrant records for their relatives.

Here's the official sock shot.

Pattern: Basic sock with Old Shale/Feather and Fan on the cuff

Yarn: ON Line Supersocke 100

Color: Tropic Color 927

Needles: Options 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch in stockinette

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Ready to Fly

By last weekend, the young Robins were out of the nest. Because I was keeping the dogs away from the area, I missed seeing them during the transition.

Old habits die hard. Every time we walk by I peek over at the nest. Guess it's time to take it down. Maybe some other bird will decide that ledge would make a nice nursery.

The Wrens fledged on Sunday. The field was loud with Wren chatter.

The three Bluebird nestlings are two weeks old now, so I won't be opening the nest again.

There were four eggs, but one never hatched. After a week or so, when the nest started to get crowded, the parents threw the unhatched egg out of the box.

The little ones are old enough to be afraid of me, so I didn't keep the box open very long. They ducked their heads, stayed very still, and I didn't disturb them.

It is possible to pick them up without harm. If they were to be banded this is the age it needs to be done. The bander would pick them up out of the nest, attach the band, and replace them. I've seen it done when I monitored the Bluebird trail at work but I'm glad my little ones will be bandless. I've never convinced myself the bands are totally harmless to the delicate creatures.

Young Tree Swallows are able to fly immediately when leaving the nest box because they exercise their wings inside the box.

They're not shy. For the past three days there has been one or two in the nest box hole every time I walk by.

I'm guessing tomorrow they'll get to try their wings in the real world.

I'll miss them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bad Biasing Yarn

After finishing Mom's birthday socks, I decided to cast on a simple stockinette summer top with the multi-colored Queensland Tahiti (49% cotton, 36% acrylic, 12% microfiber, 3% polyester). What a mess. Maybe I need to start at the beginning . . .

A few weeks ago I knit a nice swatch with this yarn and threw it in with a load of laundry before remembering I hadn't measured the "before washing" gauge. It washed well. I measured the "after laundry" gauge, assumed it was close to the "before laundry" gauge, and wrote out the numbers needed to knit my sweater.

I cast on. During various brain dead moments, I knit stockinette round and round. My calculations showed 120 rows to the underarms. When I hit 60 rows, I was way more than half there. Oops.

Also, the piece was biasing too much to ever look good on a human body. So after finally getting a "before laundry" gauge I took it off the needle, onto a piece of string, and threw it in the washer.

The row gauge shrunk over 10%. Fine. My calculations are all good and I might have happily continued knitting except I couldn't block out the bias.

Anyone have any experience with biasing yarn? If I knit the sweater back and forth in pieces will the biasing go away?

The yarn in this piece, over three skeins worth, is worthless. Now that it has done its shrinking, I'll never get it to knit at the same gauge as the rest of the skeins.

I'm so glad this isn't expensive yarn. You may never see it on this blog again.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Watch Where You Put Your Feet

There's always a need to watch where you put your feet at my house. In the winter, it's ice. Spring, summer, and fall it's critters.

Yesterday when I hauled a cart full of weeds out to the compost pile, there was a huge Blue Racer snake sitting on top of the pile sunning himself. He was coiled, so I can't be accurate about his size but I'm sure he was five feet long minimum.

So beautiful. (Yes, I'm a nature nerd. I think snakes are beautiful.)

I tried to look invisible so he wouldn't leave and went back to the house for my camera. When I returned he was gone.

Here are some June foot placement challenges I was able to catch on camera.

Since our yard is an insect wonderland, the toads are big and fat.

They patrol on the front part of the property where the grass is mowed, the garden soil is cultivated and loose, and the cement is warm.

The dogs walk around the toads with respect. They know toads are a terrible thing to taste.

Frogs live by and in, mostly in, the creek and the pond.

Last weekend we had an ugly thunderstorm with high winds and too much rain. The creek was high, fast, full of sticks, and muddy. Some of the frogs, like this one, went for the high ground until their habitat returned to normal.

The one and only time a Snapping Turtle is cute - when it's still too little to snap around one of my appendages.

This little guy was out walking on the dog path. I threw a quarter down next to him to show how small he is. Still cute for now.

Soon these Robins will be on the ground. I watch for them each time I walk in their area.

Hope that Blue Racer isn't hanging around to make one of them his dinner.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Almost Ready to Fly

Each day the young Robins look a little more like birds.

They'll be leaving the nest soon. The parents will get them out of the nest and onto the ground. Then they'll be herded to a sheltered, brushy place to continue growing, learn to find their own food, and learn to fly.

Our main dog walk path goes about ten feet from their nest. We'll take another route for a week or so. I hope to see them once they're out of the nest, but I'd hate to have one of the dogs munch on one.

I stayed on the dog walking path to take the above picture, but it wasn't far enough for Mother Robin. She was having a fit in a nearby tree.

The little Tree Swallows are also looking like birds now. They're almost fully feathered and will be leaving the nest in a few days.

I won't be opening this nest box again until I'm sure they're gone. Then I'll clean it out for whatever comes next.

Same with the little Wrens. Time to keep the box shut until they're gone.

There were seven eggs, but I'm unable to count how many young are alive and growing.

Once Wrens claim a box there is often trouble for any Bluebirds who follow. The Wrens toss out the Bluebird nest grass and will even puncture Bluebird eggs that dare to show up in a box the Wrens consider theirs.

Since Wrens are native songbirds, it's illegal, and rightfully so, to interfere with their version of "nature". I may have to move the nest box into a more open area to release it from Wrendom.

The Bluebirds are only a week old.

The chick in front is a male. His pin feathers are already showing a beautiful blue color.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer Knitting Plans

First and most important, it's time to finish up Mom's Birthday Socks for the birthday next week. All other knitting is now on hold until these socks are done.

Also on the Needles right now is the Luna Peacock Plumes Bolero from Elann

The two rectangles on the top are the finished but unblocked sleeves.

The piece on the bottom is my blocked swatch because unblocked lace is difficult to admire.

The body is half done. I didn't bother to take a picture of it. It looks like 179 stitches of lace on the needles always looks - a pile of tangled yarn.

Pattern: Luna Peacock Plumes Bolero free at Elann

Yarn: Elann Collection Luna, 55% viscose, 45% cotton. DK weight.

Color: Burnished Clay

Needles: #8 Options

Gauge: 4.4 stitches/inch, 4.75 rows/inch in Peacock Plumes stitch pattern.

Subscribing to Elann Sample Skeins has had the desired effect. My yarn horizons have been broadened. I've purchased yarn I never would have considered after just reading about it.

Counting the two cones of Soie Lin (70% silk, 30% linen) from the May Sample Skeins, I now have stash yarn for three more short sleeve summer tops.

This yarn arrived last week and I couldn't resist swatching.

The Coto Canapone (52% Cotton, 48% Hemp) in Summer Spice has no elasticity at all. It does have reasonable stitch definition, so I want to knit up something with some knit/purl patterns in it and possibly a few gentle cables.

The multi-colored Queensland Tahiti (49% cotton, 36% acrylic, 12% microfiber, 3% polyester) doesn't want to be anything but stockinette.

I don't know which yarn I'll knit up first. It depends on if I feel like fun (the Coto Canapone) or some mindless, fast knitting on #7 needles (the Tahiti).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Thoughts Of A Week Old Robin


It's a long way down to the ground. Wish I hadn't looked.

I'm going to take a nap and pretend it's all a bad dream.

Mom! You're heavy. And this nest is getting too small.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Chat Back for June 7

Answering questions from comments and email.

Dani asked . . .
Hey, did i miss you modeling the She Said sweater? I love that bright purple & would love to see it modeled .... of course, with how hot is right now, I'm sure you want to wait..

Thanks for providing a ready made excuse for me. Truth is we've just been busy doing other things, even on the cooler days. The day we took Lilac Mist pictures, it was too hot and humid to even think about putting on heavy wool.

DH and I both know there need to be pictures before the project is officially complete. The sweater is done - really done with all the seams sewn and all the ends woven in. There will be modeled pictures eventually.

Pattern: She Said Aran by Barbara Venishnick in Knitters Winter 1999, #57

Yarn: Cascade 220, 100% wool worsted weight

Color: 7808 Violet

Needles: Options #5

Gauge: 28 stitches/29.5 rows in 4 inches on lower sweater. 26 stitches/33 rows in 4 inches for upper sweater.

Jenny Raye asked . . .
What kind of feathers are those lining the tree swallow's nest? They look huge!

Thanks for the question - a good excuse to post an update picture. This was taken today and you can see the hatchlings are not naked anymore, but still very well behaved when the nest box is opened.

In just a few days I won't be able to open the nest box for fear they'll jump out before their time.

The feathers are probably chicken feathers. The nest box is only 5 or 6 inches wide, so the feathers aren't as large as they appear.

Studies have proven that the number of white feathers in a Tree Swallow nest is directly proportional to the number of successful fledglings. Makes sense. The feathers are great insulation for the naked hatchlings.

Christy H asked . . .
Do you have Birds of Michigan by Stan Tekiela? It is a smallish red book but very helpful for our state.

I've seen the Tekiela book. It's very nice, but I don't own it.

These two twenty-five year old books, Kitchen Table Bird Book and Coat Pocket Bird Book, are my favorites. They only have birds of the Great Lakes Region which greatly simplifies identification.

The Kitchen Table Book is birds one might see out their window. The Coat Pocket Book is birds once might see out in nature.

The birds are arranged by size. If I see a bird about the size of a Robin, I can go to the Robin page and flip forward and back until I find it.

The paintings are wonderful and full of detail, as is the text.

Snowbird asked . . .
What's next on the needles?

I've never been one to collect a large stash, so I'm a little concerned about the growing pile of yarn I'm accumulating as tempted by Elann Sample Skeins.

There's yarn for four more short sleeve summer sweaters sitting in the back room. One bolero is started, another sweater is swatched, and Mom's birthday socks need to be finished in the next week.

Blog post with detailed report coming soon.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Twisting in Lilac Mist Finished

This was a super fun knit.

I got to knit an easy, soft, non-splitting yarn with a pretty Barbara Walker stitch pattern up the center of the front and back. Best of all, no sewing and short sleeves.

The sleeves are knit top down on picked up stitches using Barbara Walker's short row method. They knit up very quick - one sleeve per one evening's knitting.

When knitting without a pattern, the square neckline is super simple. No neck shaping.

Figure out what part of the pattern needs to be on the very top and do a little math to get that row about four inches down from the shoulder seam. (The math will be to determine where you need to start the armhole.)

Once you get there, put the center stitches on a holder and knit straight up each side to the shoulder seam.

The back panel ended about an inch below the shoulder seams.

This twisted stitch pattern had a three inch repeat, so it was easy to end the back three inches higher than the front with both front and back twist stitch panels ending on the same row.

Pattern: The twist stitch center panel is from the third Barbara Walker Treasury - Three Diamonds flanked by Braid X. The rest I'm making up as I go along.

Yarn: Knitpicks Comfy, Worsted weight. 75% Pima cotton, 25% acrylic.

Color: Lilac Mist.

Needles: Options #4

Gauge: 5.5 stitches/inch, 8 rows/inch.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Wednesday Wings - Hatchling Tour

This week there are hatchlings in all four nests featuring in the egg tour.

Last Friday I peeked in the nest while Mrs. Robin was off and the eggs were hatching. I raced to the house to get my camera, but by the time I returned she was back on the nest. I chose not to bother her.

For five days she has been sticking tight to the nest sheltering her hatchings and keeping them warm and dry. I've been checking several times a day hoping for a photo opportunity but not willing to scare her off her hatchlings.

Finally today she was on break when I walked by.

These three fuzzy little cuties are five days old and being well tended.

Five Tree Swallows hatched last weekend.

New hatchlings aren't much to look at. They're blind with undeveloped wings and naked of feathers.

At three days old there is already a big difference. Although they're still blind with undeveloped wings and naked of feathers.

Amazing that in eleven more days they'll be feathered and hopping up and down peeking out the nest box hole to see the big world waiting for them.

I didn't try to count the little Wrens. There were seven eggs and it looks like there may be seven hatchlings.

They are a day older than the Swallow hatchlings and the young Wrens have started getting their pin feathers.

Mrs. Wren sat in a nearby tree and chattered at me while I had the nest box open.

Yesterday I opened the Bluebird nest box just in time to see one of the eggs roll around, split, and eject a little pink ball.

Almost immediately (I didn't leave the box open more than a minute), the hatchling gave the universal sign of new life - feed me!